Dreams Festival Questions Answered: An Interview With Mark Russell Of Live Nation

A big change has occurred to the Ontario summer festival schedule as the Dreams Festival, a new 19+ boutique festival that replaces Digital Dreams, has been announced. Set to take place in early July at Echo Beach, Dreams Festival will feature 3 stages, showcase a variety of genres, and is aimed at attracting the veteran EDM fan. Dreams Festival will have a very different look and feel to its previous predecessor, and to help explain all of those changes EDM Canada spoke to Mark Russell, Project Manager for Dreams Festival. We discussed the new direction of the festival, what can fans expect of the experience, and much more. 

Why did Dreams Festival go 19+?

Mark Russell: We wanted to have our own unique spot in the marketplace. It's such a crowded festival landscape, not just with electronic music, but with festivals in general. We're seeing the larger festivals are kind of a catch-all as they're drawing dance music, pop, contemporary and hip hop fans and they're putting that all together. 

What we're trying to do with making it 19+ is to say that we're an older festival for a more mature festival goer. Making it 19+ is the first and best way to do that. 

Why did you re-brand Digital Dreams into Dreams Festival?

Mark Russell, Promoter and Project Manager for Dreams Festival (Live nation)

Mark Russell, Promoter and Project Manager for Dreams Festival (Live nation)

When we made the decision to go 19+, we also made the decision to do a smaller footprint as well. Even though we still have 3 stages, we really wanted to create a higher end experience by moving the big stage from the parking lot to Echo Beach. We didn't want people to inherently expect to see a big stage in a parking lot. A lot of people just called it Dreams anyways. So it sort of still maintains a tie to it without it being the same. 

I've seen a description of Dreams Festival as being labelled as a "luxury" festival, can you elaborate on that? 

By having the festival on a smaller and contained footprint, it allows us to utilize the infrastructure we already have in place. While we're moving away from a younger crowd, we're also moving up a bit in the on-site experience. The "luxury" refers to the amenities that are on-site, the entrance, our VIP lounge will be a really elevated experience. We're doing a lot of things on-site to raise the bar from something that would be familiar to something that would feel a little bit of surprise at the quality of the on-site experience. 

Will there be a phase 2 of the Dreams lineup? 

There are still some artists to be announced, and you expect to see them revealed in the next week or so. 

You mentioned that Dreams will have a smaller footprint, what is the target turnout for this festival?

Our target turnout is a sell out at 15,000 people. It means that tickets for the festival from the get go are extremely limited. That's half of the tickets that we traditionally sold and yet the lineup you see now isn't far off from the past. We still have the 3 stages, and we still have top end international talent headlining the festival.

The idea is to have a smaller, more intimate feel. Instead of having 20,000 people on the mainstage, you'll have 7,000 at Echo Beach. That's done by design, we want people to have that more intimate experience. People will able to get to different stages more quickly and allow them to better experience the festival grounds. 

If you had to pick one must-see artist that you are most hyped to see from the Dreams lineup, which one would it be?

I'm really excited to see DJ Hanzel. It's just one of those acts that nobody ever gets to see. People have seen Dillon's alter-ego online, and it's just something different. I love seeing Above & Beyond live as I could see them an infinite number of times. We had them last year at Massey Hall for 2 nights and that was just magical. 

In a sentence or two, why should fans be excited about Dreams Festival?

The festival goer has changed so much in the past 5 years and this festival is really an evolution of ourselves and is a reflection of our fans. We put a lot of time and energy into ensuring that we have a very unique and high caliber experience for our fans.